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Hamamelis virginiana L.
Witch hazel, American witch hazel
Synonym(s): Hamamelis macrophylla, Hamamelis virginiana var. henryi, Hamamelis virginiana var. macrophylla, Hamamelis virginiana var. parvifolia
USDA Symbol: HAVI4
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
This small tree or tall shrub is often multi-trunked and usually grows10-15 ft. tall but can reach 35 ft. in height. The large, crooked, spreading branches form an irregular, open crown. The floral display of witch hazel is unique. Its fragrant, yellow flowers with strap-like, crumpled petals appear in the fall, persisting for some time after leaf drop. Lettuce-green, deciduous leaves maintain a rich consistency into fall when they turn brilliant gold. Bark is smooth and gray.
The aromatic extract of leaves, twigs, and bark is used in mildly astringent lotions and toilet water. A myth of witchcraft held that a forked branch of Witch-hazel could be used to locate underground water. The foliage and fruits slightly resemble those of the shrub hazel (Corylus). Upon drying, the contracting capsule can eject its small seed as far as 30 (9 m).
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Retention: Deciduous Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Complexity: Simple Size Notes:
Green Autumn Foliage:
Flowers 1 inch long
Brown Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Orange , Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Sep , Oct , Nov , Dec
, WV Canada: NB
, QC Native Distribution:
Que. & N.S. to n. MI
& s.e. MN,
s. to FL
& TX. In TX,
limited mostly to the moist southeast, with disjunct populations far away in a couple of counties in central TX Native Habitat:
Moist woods, thickets, bottomlands
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Medium Light Requirement:
Part Shade , Shade Soil Moisture:
Dry , Moist Soil pH:
Acidic (pH<6.8) CaCO3 Tolerance:
Low Soil Description:
Rich, well-drained soil. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Acid-based, Calcareous Conditions Comments:
The long-lived witch hazel performs best on moister sites. It tolerates wet soils, pollution, shade, and poor soil. Avoid extremely dry situations. Full sun forms fuller, more symmetrical plants. Closely related is H. macrophylla, which is smaller in all characteristics as compared to H. virginiana, with less showy flowers. H. macrophylla occurs from SC
w. to AR
Fall conspicuous, Understory tree,
Blooms ornamental, Aromatic Use Wildlife:
Birds eat the fruits (small brown capsules). Browsed by deer and beaver. Seeds-granivorous birds, Seeds-Small mammals Use Food:
First Nations used witch-hazel leaves for tea. (Athenic) Use Medicinal:
Commercial witch-hazel, an astringent liniment, is an alcohol extract of witch- hazel bark.
Witch-hazel oil has been used in medicines, eye-washes, after shave lotions and salves for soothing insect bites, burns and poison ivy rashes. (Kershaw) Conspicuous Flowers:
PropagationDescription: Seeds sown immediately after collection will be exposed to a period of warm temperatures to complete after-ripening. Pretreated seed must be double-stratified seed. Witch hazel can be layered from new wood.
Seed Collection: Pick fruits from late August to September (nearly a year after flowering) before they completely dry and snap open. Put closed capsules in a paper bag and, as they dry, the seeds will pop out. Seeds can be stored in sealed, refrigerated containers or directly stratified over winter in moist sand and peat at 41 degrees.
Seed Treatment: Stratify at 86 degrees for 60 days followed by 41 degrees for 90 days.
Commercially Avail: yes
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Aging non-native weeping willow in Ohio
June 11, 2008
We had a weeping willow now for about 15 years and it was doing fine until this summer. It has new branches sort of but a lot of the older ones are dying. There are leaves of course and they are sti...
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National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Record Last Modified: 2013-09-07
Research By: TWC Staff